Torture, say human rights activists, is on the rise under President Mohamed Morsi
Hamada Saber who was dragged and beaten in front of the presidential palace
March 2, 2013
Despite official denials, it was no secret that torture by the Mubarak-era security apparatus was systematic. One of the more notorious recent cases was the beating to death in the street of Khaled Said, a young Alexandrian whose brutal murder by two policemen in broad daylight contribute to the outpouring of anger that unseated Hosni Mubarak.
Two years after the revolution, and under the rule of an elected Islamist president, nothing has changed according to human rights activists. Egyptians, including juveniles, continue to be kidnapped, tortured and in some cases killed.
"President Mohamed Morsi’s first 100 days", a report issued four months ago by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), warned that "human rights issues remain neglected and state authorities continue to violate human rights."
Torture and degrading treatment continue unchecked, concluded the CIHRS report, and the Ministry of Interior still sees its primary role as protecting the regime.
In the past three weeks several examples of torture have hit the headlines. Political activist Mohamed Al-Guindi, it is claimed, died as a result of being tortured by the police. That the official forensic report insisted he was killed as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash did little to reassure a sceptical public. Official forensic reports claiming Khaled Said died as a result of swallowing a packet of drugs are far too fresh in people’s minds for Ministry of Interior denials not to be taken with a large pinch of salt.
The body of Mohamed Al-Shafei, another activist, was found with torture marks, though he was killed by a shot to the head.
Last week activists launched a new campaign, Nation Without Torture, which seeks to document and publicise cases of torture by the authorities. In a press conference held at the Press Syndicate to publicise the campaign several victims of police torture presented testimonies. The families of Said, Al-Guindi, Al-Shafei and Essam Atta, thought to have been tortured to death in Tora prison in October 2011, were also present.
Saad Said, 25, is another victim of alleged torture.
"Saad was taken from home without any reason," says his father. "There was an armed quarrel between thugs in our street. When the police arrived they suspected one of them had escaped up the stairs of our building. They just came and banged on our door and took away my son." "He died shortly afterwards, after being tortured by the police. He was due to marry on 1 April."
Khaled Mekdad, 20, was imprisoned for six months in the wake of clashes that took place in front of the embassy of Saudi Arabia in May 2012.
"Before my military trial I was tortured by the military police. After I was sentenced I was tortured by the police officers in prison," says Mekdad.
Amnesty International’s report "Torture ties the Egyptian Government to a Brutal Past" stresses that under President Mohamed Morsi the torture of Egyptian citizens continues unabated. The international rights group has published several accounts of the treatment of protesters and other detainees.
One of Amnesty’s interviewees, a 17-year-old protester, says he was brutally beaten in a police vehicle immediately following his arrest and before being transported to Tora camp where he was illegally detained and once again mistreated.
In the face of the proliferation of such testimonies the Ministry of Interior’s default position has been to deny the reports. Yet according to Aida Seif Al-Dawla, executive director of the Cairo-based Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, torture has been practised on a wider scale than at any time since the revolution. It is, she said, more violent, and there are more reports of sexual abuse.
Karim Nasser, detained while protesting, says he was sexually assaulted while in police custody.
"They no longer beat us up," Nasser told ONTV channel. "They want to emasculate us."
Nasser told the independent channel he was arrested on 8 February and taken to Dokki Police Station before being moved to the Giza security directorate. He was moved to the New Cairo police station where he says he was subjected to torture and rape alongside at least 20 other detained men.
Ayman Mahni recently posted an online video in which he details his torture and rape after being arrested last month in Alexandria.
"I was arrested and taken to a Central Security Forces camp where they tied my hands and covered my head with a black bag and subjected me to electric shocks," he said. He claims he was told he would be released if he confessed to being a member of the Black Bloc.
"I have never seen so many cases of male activists being raped in police custody as in the past few weeks," Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said on his Twitter account.
Ahmed Abdu, one of the founding members of the Nation Without Torture campaign, told Al-Ahram Weekly that in the first two months of this year more than 400 juveniles had been detained.
Last week EOHR issued a report detailing the torture by the police of 15 children arrested during protests in Tanta on 15 February. The children were subsequently sent to Kator Central Prison, an adult detention facility, where they continue to be held.
A source in the Ministry of Interior insists the children "were arrested due to their presence at the scene of riots and for attacking police and public property".
"They were then referred to the prosecution. It is the prosecution which decides whether to extend their custody for four days or to hand them over a juvenile welfare centre till their trial."
As for allegations of torture, the source said whoever has a complaint should go to the prosecution to present proof.
"Testimonies via media or videos circulated through social networks are not evidence against the security apparatus. The police would never return to the brutal methods they used before the revolution," he claimed.